JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — One of the NFL’s most dominant pass-rushing duos could be on the field together for the first time in nearly two years Sunday.
It would be somewhat fitting if it happened against Jacksonville, which has lost a franchise-record 16 consecutive games.
Denver linebackers Von Miller and Bradley Chubb haven’t shared a meaningful huddle since Sept. 29, 2019, during a game against the Jaguars. Chubb missed the rest of that season because of a left knee injury, and Miller sat out all of 2020 after dislodging a tendon in his left ankle in practice.
Chubb (ankle) was inactive for last week's opener at the New York Giants, a 27-13 victory, and was limited in practice Wednesday and Thursday. There’s a decent chance he's able to go Sunday and would provide a reunion of sorts for the Broncos (1-0) in Jacksonville (0-1).
“We’re planning on both those guys playing,” Jaguars offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. “So we definitely have to help take care of those guys, whatever it is. There’s a lot of different ways to do it. I can just kind of leave it at that. Definitely you have to be aware of those guys because they can wreck the game.”
They nearly did two years ago in Denver.
Chubb had a sack and three quarterback hurries; Miller finished with two sacks, beating then-rookie right tackle Jawaan Taylor repeatedly. Miller and Taylor are certain to meet again Sunday since Miller exclusively lines up on Taylor’s side.
“Great player, high motor, high energy, great leader of his team,” Taylor said. “He’s going to come out and play hard like he always does. He was awesome. He gave me a lot of great looks and made me a lot better. I’m looking forward to it.”
The 32-year-old Miller returned last week after missing 16 games the previous year and had two sacks at the Giants, looking every bit like a guy who managed double-digit sacks in seven of his first eight seasons in the league.
“It was probably important for him just to get something like that going,” Broncos coach Vic Fangio said.
Added linebacker Josey Jewell: “It’s just fun to see him go out there and kick people’s butt.”
Millen now has 108 sacks, putting him 24th on the league's career list.
“Very explosive,” Taylor said. “He looked really good. Doesn’t even look like he missed a year or missed any time.”
The Jaguars were downright dysfunctional in their season opener, a 37-21 loss at Houston. They had 10 penalties, six dropped passes, three turnovers and were down 20 points at halftime. There was confusion on the sideline and in the huddle — followed by a long flight home.
Coach Urban Meyer vowed to get the issues cleaned up and hinted that the operation would be streamlined against Denver. Jacksonville ran out of time on several occasions.
Another tweak: Meyer wants rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence to improvise more.
“Trevor has got to become Trevor a little bit,” Meyer said. “That’s part of the game, not designed necessarily like they ran it at Clemson and we ran it at Ohio State or Florida. I’m not saying we won’t, but there’s also the element of he’s a big, fast athlete that gets you some yards every once in a while if you have to.”
The Broncos have the depth to withstand the loss of top receiver Jerry Jeudy (ankle) with the likes of Courtland Sutton, K.J. Hamler and Tim Patrick. Hamler is the fastest of the trio and could see a significant uptick in his workload for the six weeks Jeudy is expected to be out.
Hamler had a crucial third-down catch in the opener among his three grabs for 41 yards, but he also dropped a long touchdown pass after sprinting past his defender and getting wide open in the end zone.
“I came out here on Monday and I told one of the assistants just throw me 100 over-the-shoulder deep balls,” Hamler said. “And the wind was blowing the same way it was when we were in New York, so it was kind of perfect to get that repetition so I don’t drop it again because that’s not my forte.”
The Jaguars expect to be more balanced in Week 2. They threw 51 passes in the opener and ran 16 times, not a recipe for sustained success in the league.
Second-year pro James Robinson carried a career-low five times, including just once in the second half. The lopsided score dictated much of the pass-heavy approach. But Meyer and Bevell believe that’s not the way to bring along a rookie quarterback — or keep a defense that features Miller and Chubb off-balance.
“We have to be able to run the football and that will help take care of some things,” Bevell said.
AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton in Denver contributed to this report.
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